Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Vote Your Preference not the Polls

There are very few people that follow politics who believe in the infallibility of the polls although too many of us are influenced by them. Often people alter their vote because the polls indicate it would be wasted on a candidate who has the certainty of victory or no chance to win. In either case our decision on what bubble to fill in can be altered by erroneous polls caused by incompetence, faulty scientific procedures or an attempt to influence the election.

Polls are often blurred and inaccurate snapshots of people’s feelings at a given moment toward a particular candidate. Many people refuse to answer pollster’s questions. Dissatisfied independents who were going to vote democrat or republican switch their party for the evening to skew the results. Some voters do not make up their minds until the last minute. Others may not honestly answer an exit poll question on a particular issue as it might make them appear in a bad light. This encourages self-censorship distorting the data used by the analysts to project a winner. Although it is against the law, these projected winners are often given before the polls close in the entire state. These predictions influence potential voters to stay home or to change their vote.

Our forefathers were right to institute a secret ballot. For individuals to honestly and freely express their opinions, they should be immune from subtle influences and possible reprisal. The pollsters choice of words, phrasing and inflection of his question can manipulate the responder’s answer. Polls do not offer any safeguards from the pollster’s potential influence or retaliation while the secret ballot does. A voting booth’s privacy eliminates any chicanery.

Regardless of the reason, polls have to be taken with a grain of salt to prevent each of us from wasting our sacred vote. We should vote for who we believe in not attempt to change the election outcome based on a false premise of a dubious poll.

Almost everyone including professional analysts went to bed thinking Obama was up by double digits in the New Hampshire primary and McCain was the inevitable winner in the Michigan primary. Hillary and Romney actually won these respective primaries. Obama’s overnight drop of 16 points in the New Hampshire primary was said to be because of the “Bradley Effect.” This effect is thought to be that whites do not want to appear to be racist to non-white candidates and lie about their vote to the pollster. Regardless of their rationalization they were wrong.

When the pollsters are far off the mark in their predictions, they give questionable explanations. Rick Lazio’s unexpected loss by a wider margin than predicted against Hillary Clinton in the New York senate race of 2002 was perceived as his being too physically aggressive in approaching her during a debate. This theory was called the “Lazio (Macho) Effect.” The disappointing showing of Romney in the 2008 primaries was attributed by some to the “Mormon Effect,” a bias against the Mormons. There is the “Late Voter Effect” where the late voters tend to go to a more conservative candidate and the “Bandwagon Effect” when momentum seems to change the poll’s results. Every time the polls are way off the mark there is another psycho-babble excuse.

In our rapidly moving and changing world many of us learn much of our information from newspaper headlines and three-minute television “sound bites.” Most people have minimal time and opportunity to discuss and analyze the validity of the conclusions of polls that are flashed before their eyes. We for the most part absorb them as fact. There isn’t a “return policy” in our election system. We are stuck with a leader who can do tremendous damage to society for four years. Buyers remorse does not matter.

It is our responsibility as citizens in a mass media society to question information that intuitively seems suspicious. When we follow the herd instead of doing our own homework to make an educated choice we are not doing our civic duty. Allowing ourselves to be led by a pseudo scientific poll could result in a sophisticated coup.

Our faith in polls far exceeds their ability to predict voter behavior. Although we see polls being wrong, time and again, too many of us make our voting decisions on the last poll. This is not logical or sensible.

Electing a leader who will have immense power over our lives is a consequential act. Misinformation can sway an election causing us to elect a candidate opposed to our constitutional protections. Being politically manipulated can only happen when people are too lazy or unwilling to research, think and exercise their right of free speech.

An uneducated electorate ultimately ends in a loss of freedom for the society. A carefully crafted fantasy candidate cannot be elected when people are willing to work and fight to gather the facts. Vote for the person who will represent your beliefs.

Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School.



Post a Comment

<< Home